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Documentation involved in a sea freight shipment

An interesting question posed by a reader of this blog..

  1. what are the documents prepared by clearing and forwarding agent ?
  2. what are the documents  prepared by the exporter and importer ?
  3. what are the documents prepared by shipping company ? 

When i started this blog back in October 2008, the very first article that i wrote was about the various parties that are involved within the shipping industry.. To recap the various people involved in a sea freight shipment will be as below..

There are many documents that need to be prepared by the various parties involved, in order to effect a shipment..

Lets examine these documents..

  • Exporterprepare Commercial Invoice, Packing List, Certificate of Origin or similar certificates, Shipping Instructions for the Bill of Lading
  • Freight Forwardersprepare Delivery Notes, Forwarders Cargo Receipt, Shipping Instructions for the Bill of Lading, Marine Insurance, Cargo inspection certificates, hazardous packing declarations
  • Clearing Agentsprepare Customs Documentation, Port Documentation, Duty and VAT exemption documents where applicable
  • Shipping Lines or their agentsprepare Booking confirmation, container release, prepare or generate Bills of Lading, Manifest, Manifest Correctors, Telex Release, Freight Invoices, Stowage plans, Loading Lists, Dangerous goods manifest, Out of guage manifests and at the discharge port, they will prepare Arrival Notification, Delivery Orders, Discharge lists, Freight invoices
  • Haulage companiesprepare TREM cards where haz cargo movements are involved, road permits, overborder permits, port entry documents
  • Intermodal operatorsprepare documentation for inland haulage, rail movement, road permits
  • Surveyorsprepare cargo inspection and survey reports based on what they have been asked to survey
  • Banksprepare Letter of Credits, Bill of Exchanges, Suretys, Guarantees
  • Insuranceprepare Marine insurance, Cargo insurance and other general insurance policies

These are by no means the full extent of documentation involved in the shipping process.. Depending on the cargo, exporter, importer, bank, destination, shipping line, government etc etc, there may be many more documentation that is required.. But these are the basic documents that are prepared by various entities for a sea-freight shipment..

Apart from the above there are also other entities such as Port, Customs, Excise, Police, Health, Veterinary authorities that are involved with the shipments and they would be preparing their own documentation.. As you can see, a single shipment depends on the co-operation of several entities to make it happen..

If you prepare some documentation that maybe new, please do share the information with the details of what the documentation is and why it is required, for the benefit of all..

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Hariesh Manaadiar
Hariesh Manaadiar
I am Hariesh Manaadiar, the Founder of Shipping and Freight Resource.. I have been in the dynamic shipping and freight industry for over three decades and have worked in several sectors.. I share my experiences and knowledge of the industry through this blog for those looking for help in the industry.. Stay subscribed for more free useful content about shipping, freight, maritime, logistics, supply chain and trade..


  1. Please, can some one help me with this question:
    State the activities at the seaport involve in the forwarding of freight from point of origin to destination point ?

  2. hello. I am a student it maritime logistics. I hope to ask what is the difference between haulage company and intermodal operator. It seems that haulage refers to the operation that the carrier brings freights from the origin to the port, and intermodal operator refers to the operation that the carrier brings freights from the port to destination. Am I right? Thank you.

  3. Hello! Thank you for this site. I’ am a student of BS Customs Administration and I’m going to report ” Sea mode of Transport “. I’ hope this blog could help me. By reporting this topic, I should be knowledgeable. My professor gave me some topics, please help me with this questions ;

    1. What are the Documents required by Sea mode of transportation?
    2. What are the usually commodities that best in this mode of transport?
    3. Who handling documents or responsible for documentation?
    4. What is/are the best mode of transport?
    5. Is by sea transport secured from dangerous cargo?
    6. Freely importable list of required docs.
    7. Regulated commodities list of required docs.

    Your help would be highly appreciated. Thank you in advance!

  4. what documentation needed if the customer wants to import full container of frozen chicken by sea on a Free Carrier (FCA)basis??

  5. Hi
    I am interested in knowing the process of issuing FCR by Forwarder . In case of CFS load the forwarder can identify the cargo condition and then issue the FCR . But if the load type in CY how does Forwarder inspects the cargo to issue the FCR document to supplier ?

  6. I love this blog so much, I spent my free time on here. Thank you Mr Hariesh Manaadiar. I have a question though: I’m working on start importing goods and household items from Africa to US. However, I don’t know if i should be contacting CBP or FDA and what kind of forms or certifications i should have. I have been reading a lot on the matter, but i’m still confused. I would really appreciate your help or any other person’s help. Thank you.

  7. Hariesh, one more document that is needed from shipper (since July 2016) is the VGM Certificate (Verified Gross Mass).
    Keep the great articles coming!

  8. Article is so nice and understandable…. Dear friend im from Tanzania and i take studies concern transport. I need more knowledge and experience cornern this industries,, i need help from any body who have any knowledge concern. Thanks

  9. For bulk shipments there are also some ship-shore documentation required like shippers cargo declaration ( ref BLU code). Acceptance note of cargohold cleanliness etc. Notice of Readiness is an important one whatever type of sea transport.

  10. Hi Hariesh

    Excellent article – however, what about the clearing instruction that the Importer must fully complete in SA. This document is becoming a huge issue with SARS at present.

  11. Great article Hariesh. I see you separated the certificate of origin (COO) with EUR1. EUR1 is one type of a COO for getting a preferential rate of duty on goods meeting the EU protocols as per the EU agreement provided those countries have ratified the agreement.

  12. The article is well explained, simple and with good flow.
    Thanks Hariesh, you continue to educate me with each and every article.
    It has become my reference points.
    Thank you so so much.
    keep on educating majority of us, we appreciate you.

  13. Nice one, however suggest to make a change in Exporter’s actions. He does not prepare the purchase order but Quotation. Thanks!!


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